Consumer behaviour survey on repairability in Belgium

In May 2022, a survey of over 5,000 consumers in Belgium has been carried out to have a more detailed image of consumer behaviour on repairability: how and where do consumers prefer to get products fixed and how much the presence of warranty impacts their choices. 

The survey included questions about common large and small household appliances and high-tech devices: portable computers, printers, vacuum cleaners, coffee machines, washing machines and fridge-freezers.

The survey was carried out via an online questionnaire, the sample was weighted to represent the distribution of the general Belgian population in terms of gender, age (between 18 and 74 years old), educational level and geographical regions. 

It found that:

1 Breakdowns are pretty common

Across the six categories of products, at least one of six consumers experienced a problem or breakdown in the last 2 years, either with the device they have now or a previous one in that category. The highest proportion of problems were with portable computers and the lowest with fridge-freezers. 

2 Warranty matters when making repair decisions 

Warranty proved to be important for consumers deciding on a repair. When broken products were still under warranty, consumers were much more likely to get them repaired. The age of the appliance or device and the cost of it did not have a significant impact on the decision. 

Across all devices, only the fact that a device was still in the warranty period appeared to play a significant role in the decision to repair. The biggest difference was seen for washing machines, where 70 % of people opted for a fix during the warranty period, and only 30 % did this after the warranty period.

3 But not all items under warranty get repaired 

There are many reasons for not getting items repaired, even if the warranty makes it easier. Many consumers make a pragmatic choice to continue using the item (if the malfunction does not prevent the use) or decide that the time and effort to take a product back to a retailer or manufacturer is too long.

A limited number said they had not been able to get spare parts for the repair, others had been told the item was not repairable, or that it would cost too much. Even when a product is under warranty, consumers might face (high) costs if, for example, some parts are excluded from the warranty, or the warranty is refused or if they've lost the original paperwork. 

4 Cost is key for items out of warranty

When consumers choose repair for items no longer under warranty, the cost is of overriding importance for all devices and appliances. Consumers reported that either the repair cost was too high outright, or that the device was no longer worth the repair cost.  

5 Returning to the store is first choice for repair

For products under warranty, taking a damaged product to the place of purchase was the overwhelming popular option for consumers, followed by taking it to a representative of the brand. People are willing to repair broken devices themselves even when they are under warranty, particularly if it concerns high tech devices.  

Once the warranty is over, there’s a jump in people attempting repairs themselves, with 60 % trying to repair a vacuum cleaner, and 29 % having a try at fixing a printer. 

Generic repair stores are well used for high-tech devices, with almost a quarter (23 %) reporting that they had taken their portable computer to one, and 13 % bringing in a broken printer. Repair cafes are not widely used for products under or after warranty - but these could be a vital community resource for easier repair. 

The full survey can be consulted here.

To the results of the Belgian consumer behaviour survey on repairability

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